UK brands have lost a huge £70 billion-worth of business this year because of a failure to respond quickly enough to potential customers.
Research among 1,731 workers, which included 728 senior managers in organisations of all sizes across both the public and private sector, undertaken by mobile operator Vodafone, revealed that the country’s 2.3 million businesses have lost an average of £30,000 each this year for failing to be quick enough off the mark, a rise of almost £10,000 on 2009.
The problem is that 27% of time-pressed business people now expect a response from prospective suppliers within an hour, with the figure rising to 29% among those who want to hear back either the same morning or afternoon.
If they did not hear back within their preferred timeframe, however, 27% would contact another provider immediately, while just under two out of five said that they had cancelled a contract over the last 12 months due to difficulties in contacting key decision-makers, slow responses to an urgent call or the availability of a quicker service elsewhere.
Peter Kelly, Vodafone UK’s enterprise director, said: "Businesses need to respond quickly and efficiently to their customers if they want to survive and thrive. More and more companies will choose to work with suppliers that can prove they will be contactable 24/7. If your business is not responsive, it’s not going to win in this fiercely competitive environment."
The study entitled the ‘2010 Critical Response Time Index’ indicated that young people aged 16 to 24 were the most impatient. A third wanted to hear back between 31 and 60 minutes after dropping suppliers an email compared with 11% of 25 to 34 year olds and 10% of 35 to 44 year olds.
And the use of channels such as social media was only exacerbating the situation, the research found. Some 14.7% of respondents aged 16-24 said they ‘frequently’ employed social networks for work purposes, with a fifth doing so ‘occasionally’, but two out of five of these categories expected a response within an hour.
To make matters worse, just over a third of businesses predicted that social networks would become an increasingly important means of sourcing suppliers in future.
The most demanding businesses in the country, meanwhile, were located in London. Here some 22% of those questioned expected a response within 30 minutes. Next in line was Yorkshire, where 21% wanted a reply within an hour. The most patient organisations were located in Scotland, where 15.4% of businesses were prepared to wait a week and 5.4% even longer.
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined MyCustomer in 2007.